Unknown Origins review – twists we’ve seen before Netflix's superhero/serial killer pastiche never rises above it's B-movie aspirations.

2.5

Summary

Anyone expecting a nuanced look into what turns fans into obsessives, or what separates law enforcement from vigilantes will be disappointed. For any Marvel fan looking to scratch that superhero itch, Unknown Origins will suffice.

As the Coronavirus creates massive social upheaval around the world, one chance of lesser note is that 2020 has become possibly the first summer in recent memory without superhero movies. The few exceptions, such as The Old Guard and those New Mutants, have emphasized lower stakes, character-based antics. But the lack of big-screen experiences doesn’t mean that superheroes are far from our screen.

Unknown Origins, Netflix’s new Spanish-language thriller, follows detectives on the case of a serial killer. Cosme (Antonio Resines) is a grizzled older cop who brings along up and coming detective David (Javier Ray) to a gruesome crime scene. The baffling murder is brought into light by Cosme’s comic-book obsessed son Jorge (Brays Efe) who notes its similarity to an edition of the Incredible Hulk. They realize their serial killer is inspired by superhero origin stories, giving Jorge a chance to prove his worth to his father.

If that sounds like a mashup of Seven (SeSevenen?) and Unbreakable, it’s because that’s exactly what Unknown Origins is, although with a side of “cops are the real superheroes” mentality. The film feels like a work of pastiche of the aforementioned films with nerd-dom in general, as Jorge’s knowledge helps them crack the case. Unfortunately, Unknown Origins never rises to the depth of either of those films.

Instead, it seems content to play out as a b-movie genre exercise, hitting all the tropes on the head, then underlining them again, just in case you didn’t catch them. Characters will speak plot points or their backstory seemingly unprompted. At a laundromat, Javier breaks it down to Cosme; “Everyone automatically assumes I wanted to become a cop because my parents are murdered… but it’s really because… I want to do the right thing.” Subtlety was clearly not at the top of the writers’ minds.

But what Unknown Origins lacks in subtext it makes up for in genre delight. There’s gore, suspense, superhero references, and some colorful characters, including a police chief with a penchant for cosplay, and a mortician who seems just a bit too happy with his profession. Anyone expecting a nuanced look into what turns fans into obsessives, or what separates law enforcement from vigilantes will be disappointed. For any Marvel fan looking to scratch that superhero itch, Unknown Origins will suffice.


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Cole Sansom

Cole Sansom is a writer, filmmaker, and photographer based out of Philadelphia

1 thought on “Unknown Origins review – twists we’ve seen before

  • September 13, 2020 at 9:50 am
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    I’m not sure if this reviewer really understood that Secret Origins (the terrible translation into English as “Unknown Origins” is clearly because of copyright only in English) is really obviously a comedy, and perhaps some of the jokes that work in Spanish as subtle dialogue don’t come across in English.

    I’m also not sure how one thing can “rise” to the depths of two others, although I get what he’s trying to say, it’s still kind of grammatically impossible and causes more problems than it solves as a turn of phrase.

    I’m not sure that it’s incumbent on a comedy and often satire to have subtlety or to necessarily find out what turns fans into obsessives (that one feels like a straw man to set up and knock down and might also motivate the reviewer to keep omitting that it’s really obviously a comedy and satire), if there is a social layer that thinks they are freaks and nerds, which is often reflected in the dialogue. Upright spaniards and those that are into things that are not real or they need to dress up.

    Which is of course looked at and discussed several times in the film, despite it often satirising those two views or social tribes.

    The whole satire thing is also why other reviewers have made comparisons with the Kickass films, and might add a third reason to add weight to the whole pastiche thing is you want to ignore the fact that it’s making fun of genres and fans, as well as non-fans.

    Reply

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